Shopper paradise Laxmi Rd to be no-vehicle zone during Diwali?

In meeting with PMC, traffic cops suggest keeping city's shopping destination vehicle-free to control festival rush

In what could come as a jolt to thousands of Puneites and shopkeepers during the country's most awaited festival, authorities plan to make the city's iconic Laxmi Road out of bounds for vehicles in Diwali. The road is a shopper's paradise and Diwali is the busiest time of the year for the stores there.

Busy Road: Thousands of vehicles use or are parked on Laxmi Road at
any given time of the day. file pic

The proposal to keep vehicles off Laxmi Road came from the traffic police. The issue was briefly discussed in the latest traffic coordination committee meeting between the Pune Municipal Corporation and the traffic police. Deputy Commissioner of Police Vishwas Pandhare discussed the proposal with other officials present.
Officials who attending the meeting, which took place on September 14, said alternative arrangements for parking and pedestrian movement were also briefly discussed.

"Apart from alternative roads for vehicle movement and parking, we also need to think about hawkers, opposition from shopkeepers and diversion of Pune Mahanagar Parivahan buses on the road since several routes pass through the road. We are yet to make a decision and the plan will have to be discussed with the police and municipal commissioner. A meeting also might be held with shopkeepers' associations and other bodies for consultations,"

said an official present at the meeting. Laxmi Road has around 1,000 vehicles parked at any given time of the day and the figure increases manifold during Diwali. Another meeting was held yesterday between the shopkeepers' association and the traffic police officials, where the former opposed the plan.

Shops oppose move
Fatehchand Ranka, president of the Pune Saraf Association, said they would oppose the move steadfastly since it would come as major blow to their businesses. "The next meeting is scheduled on September 24 and we will oppose the move then too," said Ranka. Other officials present at the meeting were Additional City Engineer Pramod Nirbhavne, Deputy Comm-issioner (Encroachments) Ramesh Shelar and PMPML officials. Civic activists have welcomed the move, saying the plan is a first-of-its-kind in the city. Prashant Inamdar from Pedestrian's First said he had made similar proposals earlier which involved banning vehicles for a certain period of time every day.

"It's a welcome move and will help in mitigating massive traffic snarls not only on Laxmi Road but also several other important roads. For the first time, a decision has been taken in favour of pedestrians and not vehicles," said Inamdar. He also talked about a recent survey conducted by the NGO for parking in the Mandai area which warranted such a decision. He demanded the incorporation of such proposals in the city's Comprehensive Mobility Plan.

Vivek Welankar from Sajag Nagrik Manch said the proposal would attract more customers for the shops on the road since more pedestrians can comfortably shop in the absence of vehicles. PMC Additional City Engineer Srinivas Bonala confirmed the development, but refused to comment on the issue. DCP (Traffic) Vishwas Pandhare said the plan was at the conceptual stage and would have to be looked at through all angles before taking a final decision.

"We have already held a meeting with the shopkeepers and will meet them again to allay all their fears. We have to protect the interests of everyone, ranging from shop owners to motorists and pedestrians, which will require a careful study and systematic execution," said Pandhare.

(With inputs from Kavya Singh)

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